Online resources help area livestock owners find hay

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

By Lynn A. Wade

Nevada Daily Mail

Farmers are glad to see the snow and ice covering the ground melt and will be even happier when forage grasses begin to grow again in the spring.

Many are reporting difficulty finding hay and supplying feed to livestock that rely heavily on grasses and forage available in the field.

It's an on-going problem that began this summer, with persistent dry weather.

At the time, large amounts of hay normally harvested and stored were lost to the drought and to fires that were common in the extremely dry conditions the area had experienced since last January.

In July, farmers reported low yields. "Hay is making a fourth to a third that it was last year. This year it is a bale to an acre and last year it was two to three bales in an acre," said Scott Morris of El Dorado Springs, Mo., during the summer.

Dry conditions prevailed, and some did not get the second cuttings usually harvested during the summer at all.

"It dried up in the fields," said a local woman, holding up her hands in a gesture of helplessness at the memory of being at the mercy of the weather last summer.

Some people are getting out and using hay that's been stored for years to feed cattle supplementing the hay by feeding the animals grain in order to make the hay last longer.

Many have resorted to importing hay from other states and other methods of feeding the animals.

Hay is available, but the cost has been on the rise for months, now.

Most local farmers are saying they didn't get a second cutting due to the drought conditions last summer, and demand began to increase at that time.

Ray Heely at Heely's Livestock Auction, Nevada, said that every Friday they've had hay to sell, in small and large bales.

Large bales have been running $65 to $85 per bale, and some imported hay is costing about $100 per ton, he reported.

Prices found on various hay exchanges on the Internet showed similar prices. Some were substantially lower, but these, in general, did not include delivery.

Jim Hertzog at MoKan Livestock Auction, Passaic, said he has only enough hay to feed his stock and to operate the auction -- none for sale.

It's getting harder and harder to find, he said, and it's not just this area's farmers who are hard-pressed to find hay. He recently visited a ranch in Purcell, Okla., where the rancher faces the same situation.

He said he'd sold a lot of hay, early in the season, but is now short.

"It's a bad deal. Producers were already short, then they sold some, then they were really short on it," and the ice that recently covered the area, in parts of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, exacerbated the situation.

"It's a widespread thing. They've got some hay up in north Missouri," Iowa, and South Dakota, and Hertzog estimates that the shipping cost alone would amount to $20-$25 per ton.

Hay is being imported from those areas, and the cost of shipping it often rises in tandem with the distance it's transported, making the final cost to local folks increase.

Many livestock owners are discouraged -- so much so that a half dozen of them contacted by the Daily Mail didn't even want to talk about it, saying they don't like it, but that's the way it is.

"You just put up with it," Hertzog said.

When he did have hay to sell, it averaged $111 per bale.

Hertzog believes the cost of hay will also be reflected in the cost of cattle at the sale barns as well.

Some have even considered downsizing their herds.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a resource that might be able to help producers in finding hay for sale in Missouri.

The Missouri Hay Directory lists producer names, telephone numbers, amounts and types of hay for sale and bale size and shape. Listings are divided by county, and the directory also includes out-of-state producers.

This information also can be found online at http://agebb.missouri.edu/haylist, a Web page allowing producers to list their hay online or by calling the department's hay hotline toll free at (800) 877-4HAY. Hay producers interested in selling their hay may also do so by calling the hotline or by accessing the Web site.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is encouraging all Missouri hay producers to list their excess hay.

"The recent ice storms that hit portions of Missouri have made it more difficult to feed livestock and available hay supplies are decreasing rapidly," said Fred Ferrell, director of MDA. "We are encouraging all hay producers that can spare portions of their supply to list their hay with the Hay Directory to help those in need."

"With a few more months of feeding before the spring season, our livestock producers are continuously looking for hay and we are doing everything we can to meet their needs," said Ferrell.

A Kansas resource, a joint effort of Kansas Farm Bureau and K-State Research and Extension, is available online at http://www.kfb.org/hayandpasture, and has regional listings of hay available as well.

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